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If you're a woman and you're 35 or younger ...

...Greenstone Media is not the feminist talk radio your Mom told you was someday coming. Because someday never comes, at least for feminists whose glory and ideals have faded to greed. Here's why Greenstone Media will fizzle and fail their core audience, cost their investors millions of dollars but make one clever radio consultant much, much richer...

Today, 20 September 2006, Gloria Steinem will make a speech at the R&R Convention/National Association of Broadcasters Radio Show in Dallas to tout her newest business venture, Greenstone Media, a woman-directed talk radio network. The presentation is entitled TALK THAT WOMEN REALLY WANT: Programming and Selling the new Money Format for Women 25-54 and it, along with the entire talk net concept that's being presented, is based on this research by an outfit in Santa Monica called PhiPower.

Nowhere in any of the material that I have been able to find is the word "feminist" or "feminism" mentioned. I don't believe for a second that either Ms. Steinem or her business partner, Ms. Fonda, have moved beyond the principles of the movement in which they have been so instrumental over the years, but facts is facts. No mention. And that troubles me. Even the New York Times is a wee bit suspicious; here are a couple quotes from the NYT article:

"As Ms. Fonda herself said about the new project last week, radio can serve as a great companion to women while they are “cooking and sewing."

"Get married at 30, have fun in your 20’s and have kids between 32 and 35. Don’t wait until your late 30’s or early 40’s, because you’re going to have somebody else’s egg, you’re going to have to get an Asian baby..."

Meet the public faces of Greenstone Media:

Gloria Steinem, who, at 72, looks great and sounds great. More then thirty years ago she founded Ms. Magazine and was the voice for millions of American women who felt disenfranchised and ignored by business and government. Today she is laboring under the illusion cast by a radio Houdini that 21st Century women need a talk radio network that does not seem to include issues or, for that matter much beyond the mundane. What happened?Gloria Steinem then Gloria Steinem now
Jane Fonda in 1972, seated at anti-aircraft gun in North Vietnam Jane Fonda nowJane Fonda, who, at 69, looks great as well, but brings a lot of historical and political baggage with her. At left, Ms. Fonda is seen making nice with the crew of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun in 1972. Since then, she has made a lot of movies, including an enormously successful series of home workout videos, the fundamental message of which was the empowerment of women. What happened?

In this recent piece, Brian Maloney's Radio Equalizer included Rosie O'Donnell and Billie Jean King as partners to Steinem and Fonda, and Brian discloses that Greenstone is taking over studio and office space from Air America at AA's New York hq! Good for Greenstone, bad for the displaced workers at Air America. Maloney was also able to follow the money...

So let's review:
   -- We've got a woman's radio network settling in place, echoing previous efforts that have been kindly described as "nightmarish". It's described as radio to listen to while women are cooking and sewing (Jane Fonda said that...the only women I know who still sew are the Russian immigrant chicks at the tailor shop here in town) and, oh yeah, be sure to have your kids early in life.
   -- It's currently in trial stage, on the air in four or five tiny markets on tiny little low-powered stations; trial is good, getting the kinks out is good. It's why God created the concept of "off Broadway".
   -- No word on whether or not they're going to make the fatal AirAmerica error of buying time on affiliates rather than developing programming that affiliates will run for a share in the national advertising that's sure to flood in. As of six months ago, they had about $3million in seed money.
   -- They indicate that there will be no "issues" discussed, unless such issues relate directly to lifestyles...in other words, no politics.

What's going on here?

Well, in my not so humble opinion, what's going on is that one of our esteemed radio gurus ran out of potential stations as clients at the same time he ran out of ideas and started making phone calls up the ladder. He assigned one of his toadys to develop the concept and, well, what you see so far is what you get.

As of today, all of the press coming out on the R&R/NAB convention presentation is coming from a Talk Radio consultant named Holland Cooke. Cooke has been a consultant since 1995, and that alone should tell you something. Here's a taste from his website: The only reason [Ann] Coulter can profit from her witchy hatemongering is because the media let her. Cable news channels know you’ll stop channel surfing when you land on her wild-eyed snarling. And Talk radio – always eager to ape cable topics – welcomes her carefully crafted book tour script, and generally lets her control the interview. Guess we know where he stands, huh?

Cooke works for Mike McVay, whose first listed reason to hire his company is that he provides "Complete supervision in all areas of programming and marketing." Just what you need, huh? Total control by a consultant whose associate has a major-league political agenda. Yet these are the guys who are consulting Greenstone Media and who will be directing their future programming. If you are an owner of a station that might be considering affiliation with Greenstone, be afraid. Be very, very afraid. McVay Media has their hands into hundreds of radio stations and I believe that this is what Greenstone is counting on to get their programming on the air nationwide.

So is that so bad?

No, actually. Just because a consultant has a personal political agenda is no reason to not hire them. But consider the future. Today, Greenstone programming talks about cooking and sewing and having babies. And this may actually be a viable format for women who are tired of hearing rants on the radio and want to hear something less intense. But what happens in February or March 2007 when the talk suddenly goes political and Greenstone tries to subborn the November 2008 election as did AirAmerica a few years ago? I welcome political programming on radio from all sides...but not this way, not placing it through the back door.

Is that something you want to air? Do you really want to have Cooke and McVay have "Complete supervision in all areas of programming" of your radio station if they have a political agenda and are being paid by the program provider to present it on your FCC licensed air?

Your choice, of course.

If Greenstone goes belly up because it went political, it will bust just like Air America is getting ready to. The investors will lose, the affiliates will lose, the listeners will lose a resource...but the consultant will still have made his money. Lots of money.


September 19, 2006
Critic’s Notebook
Radio Programming for Women, Whatever That Means
By GINIA BELLAFANTE, New York Times

Earlier this year Gloria Steinem, assisted by Jane Fonda and a handful of other prominent women in the worlds of finance and entertainment, created GreenStone Media to develop and distribute radio programming for women.

Though radio’s popularity has receded for adults across the board in recent years, it has declined notably among women, a matter Ms. Steinem has come to regard with some trepidation. Promoting her new venture at a conference in Minneapolis this summer, she lamented even that fewer women are now listening to so-called adult contemporary radio. What this implies for feminism’s ambitions isn’t entirely certain, unless you begin to imagine that the shrinking number of women inclined to set their alarm clocks to a station favoring Justin Timberlake correlates somehow to diminished odds for a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency.

GreenStone is not in the business of music, however. If during the past week or two you happened to tune in to the three talk shows it has begun to syndicate (so far available in only a few markets, not including New York), you would have found yourself privy to conversations about the health effects of coffee, a nascent trend in pets’ attending weddings, the amorous deceptions of the former New Jersey governor James E. McGreevey (deemed very bad) and our societal obsession with children’s physical safety. (Conclusion: Too many helmets. We’re churning out a generation of ninnies.)

GreenStone’s programming is at its most feisty and refreshing when it tries to crack the shackles of maternal orthodoxy, but that effort is not made regularly enough. More often it passes the time reveling in the sort of news ephemera that tells listeners that Osama bin Laden is rumored to think warmly of Whitney Houston, that a woman recently tried to kill her husband to avenge the death of a chicken, and that Paris Hilton arrives late at fashion shows (to which you are tempted to issue a counterrevelation: “Oxygen for Life Forms Still Considered Vital”).

Despite its pedigree, the programming remains anodyne and apolitical. To listen to it in anything but thick wool socks and toasty pajamas seems a betrayal of its comforting purpose. Thus far all the hosts are genial female comics — Lisa Birnbach; Mauren Langan, Cory Kahaney and Nelsie Spencer, who make up “The Radio Ritas”; and Mo Gaffney and Shana Wride, who call themselves “Women Aloud.”

But a humor of complacency stands in for a language of subversion, and the extent to which you will find the shows funny seems dependent on how seriously you ever considered buying tickets to “Menopause: The Musical.” (Ms. Gaffney on the challenges of fashion: “If you’ve ever listened to this show, you know pants don’t fit me.”)

Among adult women who do listen to radio, the percentage spending some time with talk shows has increased, however slightly, in the last eight years, according to the Arbitron ratings service. But GreenStone, as Ms. Steinem explained in a CNN interview last week, is predicated on the notion that women have abandoned radio, and the talk format specifically, because it is “too hostile and argumentative and crazy” and because women are “not nearly as hostile and argumentative.” Certainly the participants on, say, Urbanbaby.com, an online community for young mothers, would dispute that assessment, tackling as they do the issues of pediatricians or foreign policy with the ferocity of the Achaeans at Troy.

Though it could not have been Ms. Steinem’s intention to hand the Rush Limbaughs of the world an early holiday gift, GreenStone too easily obliges the idea that debate is just a synonym for bad manners, and in doing so suggests that the only corrective to invidious discussion is no discussion at all — or, rather, lots of little discussions about hosiery and slumber parties.

Despite Ms. Steinem’s inadvertent generosity, right-wing critics like Mr. Limbaugh have still sought to disparage GreenStone, even though on ideological grounds there is virtually nothing at which they could plausibly take offense. As Ms. Fonda herself said about the new project last week, radio can serve as a great companion to women while they are “cooking and sewing.”

At one point during “The Radio Ritas” last week, I found myself wondering if I were actually listening to Phyllis Schlafly radio. Ms. Spencer, talking about a study indicating that there were possibly negative effects to having children too young, remarked that maybe it was a good idea to wait after all.

Ms. Langan responded emphatically: “Let me tell you, it isn’t. Listen to Aunt Maureen, it isn’t. Get married at 30, have fun in your 20’s and have kids between 32 and 35. Don’t wait until your late 30’s or early 40’s, because you’re going to have somebody else’s egg, you’re going to have to get an Asian baby, which is fine,” she said before pausing. “I’m just saying there are different options.” It was at that moment that I recalled that Mrs. Schlafly had a daughter at 40.

GreenStone is not a renunciation of Ms. Steinem’s beliefs, as some will surely suggest, but an apt expression of the convalescent feminism she has advocated for nearly two decades: the idea that a better world can be achieved by feeling better. In her view epistemology is no substitute for emotion.

Ms. Steinem always disdained intellectualism, saying of academic feminists, in a 1995 interview with Mother Jones, that “nobody cares about them” and that their work was “gobbledygook.” In her own writing she has never produced anything to match the rhetorical rigor of Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique,” offering instead books like the best-selling “Revolution From Within” and occasional pieces that imagine how the world would have been different if Freud had been a woman or if men experienced their own time of the month.

At 72, Ms. Steinem remains a passionate activist. So while it might seem petty to begrudge her an interest in levity, she must surely see the prevalence of it all around her, and the triumph in particular of the women’s-magazine voice she favors, from morning television to Olympics coverage.

Or perhaps she doesn’t. A guest herself on one of GreenStone’s shows last week, Ms. Steinem said she didn’t understand people who bemoaned the Oprah-fication of the news. To that, she said, her response was, “If only.”


Celebs commit $3.1M to women's radio
Washington Business Journal
March 17 2006, by Ben Hammer, Staff Reporter

GreenStone Media has lined up backing from a high-profile group of women to syndicate talk shows for women on FM radio.

The D.C.-based company has secured $3.1 million in venture capital as part of its first-round of funding from investors such as Billie Jean King, Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and Rosie O'Donnell.

Former Federal Communications Commissioner Susan Ness co-founded GreenStone Media last year to create radio programming aimed at women between 25 and 54. Other investors include Marta Kauffman, the creator of "Friends"; Jamie McCourt, president of the Los Angeles Dodgers; and Wallis Annenberg, vice president of the Annenberg Foundation.

"A group of us were lamenting that there is virtually no programming that really targets women on the radio dial, and so the more we looked into it, the more we realized there was this huge hole to fill," says Ness, the company's chief executive.

Ness is running the company from D.C. but expects the headquarters will eventually move to New York. Executives in charge of operations are located in Seattle.

The group behind GreenStone may be on to something. The percentage of weekday talk-radio listeners who are adult women has remained relatively constant at about 33 percent since 1998, according to media research company Arbitron. Adult contemporary is the only format that attracts a larger share of female listeners.

"Probably more women than men feel there's not enough on the radio for them," says Tom Taylor, editor of industry newsletter Inside Radio. "The challenge is getting on the air in a good spot on a competitive radio station."

Inside Radio is a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, which owns 1,200 radio stations in the United States.

More talk shows are taking up real estate on the FM dial as music migrates to alternative media such as satellite radio and podcasting, analysts say.

That creates opportunities, but getting wide distribution and attracting a devoted audience can take years of hard work wooing program managers at each station in each market, Taylor says.

To do that, GreenStone's Ness has recruited Edie Hilliard as chief operating officer and Jim LaMarca as vice president of operations. The Seattle-based executives were top execs at Jones Radio Networks, a provider of satellite-delivered live programs, music and consulting services to individual stations.

GreenStone joins other radio companies producing shows for women, such as D.C.-based XM Satellite Radio, which launched the Take Five channel in October 2005 with shows hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and Tyra Banks. Amy Reyer, XM's director of women's programming, thinks there will be a "revolution" this year in distribution of programming tailored to women.

"All it's really going to take is a few markets," she says. "What we're able to do here is take some risks, test the waters and find out what's happening. Hopefully that will create a chain reaction for women's programming."

GreenStone would like to syndicate programming in all major markets, though Ness won't detail the initial targets. GreenStone also plans to distribute programming online, in podcasts and through proprietary services such as airlines and cable TV providers.

Ness says the company plans to add programming for every time segment and day of the week. The shows will steer away from politics and instead focus on issues such as faith, business, families and relationships.

"The talk that typically appears on the AM radio tends to be harsh and confrontational, and that's not the kind of radio that women want to listen to," Ness says.

GreenStone has already lined up actresses and comediennes to host talk shows in the morning, mid-morning and afternoon drive-time slots. Ness says the launch of broadcasting will depend on syndication deals.

The 6-9 a.m. show will be hosted by stand-up comics Maureen Langan, Corey Kahaney and Nelsie Spencer, author of "The Playgroup." The 9 a.m.-noon show will be hosted by Lisa Birnbach, author of "The Official Preppy Handbook." The 3-6 p.m. show will be hosted by Mo Gaffney, who has appeared on TV shows such as the "That '70s Show," "Mad About You" and "Absolutely Fabulous."


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